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Current Affairs - 03 September 2017

General Affairs 

Narendra Modi cabinet reshuffle: Politicians, bureaucrats, diplomat among 9 new ministers to be inducted
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to introduce a reshuffled cabinet tomorrow morning. According to top-level sources, at least nine new faces will be sworn-in as Union ministers at Rashtrapati Bhavan tomorrow. The sources said that these are the nine men who will given ministries the Modi cabinet's third avatar:
    Shiv Pratap Shukla
    A law graduate from Gorakhpur University, Shiv Pratap Shukla started off his political journey as a student leader in the 1970s. He is a Rajya Sabha MP from Uttar Pradesh and currently a member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Rural Development. Shukla was elected a member of the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly for 4 consecutive times in 1989, 1991, 1993 and 1996 and is known for his work in Rural Development, Education and Prison reform during his tenure.
    Ashwini Kumar Choubey
    A Lok Sabha MP from Buxar, Bihar, Choubey has been credited to have raised the slogan "Ghar-ghar me ho shouchalaya ka nirman, tabhi hoga ladli bitiya ka kanyadaan". He has helped construct 11,000 toilets for Mahadalit families.  He is member of the Parliamentary Committee on Estimates and Standing Committee on Energy and also of Member of Central Silk Board. He has been elected for 5 consecutive terms to the Bihar Legislative Assembly and held important portfolios including Health, Urban Development and Public Health Engineering as a Cabinet Minister of Bihar government for 8 years. A BSc (Hons) in Zoology, he started early in politics as the president of the Student`s Union of Patna University and also took active part in the JP movement in the 1970s.
    Virendra Kumar 
    A Lok Sabha MP from Tikamgah, Madhya Pradesh, he has had a distinguished career in public service as a 6 term Lok Sabha MP. Currently is the chairperson of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour. Armed with an MA in Economics and a PhD in Child Labour, Kumar Kumar had actively participated in the JP movement of the 1970s, and went to jails for 16 months under MISA during the Emergency.
    Anantkumar Hegde
    A member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs and Human Resource Development, Hegde is a Lok Sabha MP from Uttara Kannada, Karnataka. He was elected as an MP for the first time at the young age of 28 years and is now 5th term Lok Sabha MP.  During his multiple stints in Parliament, he has been a member of multiple Parliamentary Standing Committees. He is a practitioner of Tae-kwon-do and Korean Martial Art.
    Raj Kumar Singh
    A Lok Sabha MP from Arrah, Bihar, Raj Kumar Singh serves on Parliamentary Standing Committees on Health and Family Welfare, Personnel, Pensions and Public Grievances and Law & Justice. He is a former top bureaucrat, retiring as the Home Secretary of India. He also had experience of serving in the Bihar Home Department and also been associated with other fields including public works, agriculture and industries.
    Hardeep Singh Puri
    Hardeep Singh Puri is a former diplomat and has represented India at the United Nations as the  ambassador and permanent representative. He has been the Indian ambassadors to several nations, including Brazil and United Kingdom. Before being inducted in to the Indian Foreign Service in 1974, Puri was a student leader in Delhi and was active during the Jayaprakash Narayan movement years. During his four-decade IFS career, Puri also served as the chairman of the Counter-Terrorism Committee of the UN. He is currently the President and chairman of the Research and Information System for Developing Countries, a Delhi-based think tank.
    Gajendra Singh Shekhawat
    A Lok Sabha MP from Jodhpur, Rajasthan, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat is on the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance and is the chairperson of the Fellowship Committee. He is also known to be closely connected to sports, having participated in national and all-India university-level in basketball competitions. Shekhawat is also a member of the All India Council of Sports and the president of the Basketball India Players Association.
    Satya Pal Singh
    A former Indian Police Services officer, Satya Pal Singh is currently is a Lok Sabha MP from Baghpat, Uttar Pradesh. He serves on Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs and is also the chairperson of the Joint Committee on Offices of Profit. He has been involved in anti-Naxal operations in Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh and was even awarded with Special Service Medal for his tenure in these areas. He has served as the Commissioner of Police in Mumbai and Pune and holds an MBA, MA and a PhD, the latter in Naxalism.
    Alphons Kannanthanam
    A former bureaucrat and a practising advocate Alphons Kannanthanam was once listed on the TIME Magazine's list of 100 Young Global Leaders. During his stint as an Indian Administrative Services officer,  Kannanthanam was responsible for turning Kottayam in Kerala into India's first 100 per cent literate town, in 1989. He also served in Delhi, where he became known for launching a drive to rid Delhi Development Authority areas of around 15,000 illegal buildings. The 1979 IAS batch officer retired has some political experience, serving as an independent in the Kerala Assembly from 2006 to 2011. His most recent brush with policy was when he was part of the committee that prepared the final draft of the National Education Policy 2017.

Odisha: Flood-like situation in Bhubaneswar due to continuous rain, more showers predicted
  • Massive flooding have been reported from residential areas of Bhubaneswar due to continuous downpour and at many places water have entered houses. Meanwhile, MeT department has predicted more rain in the next two 2 days.
    News agency ANI quoted a local resident saying, "Bhubaneswar is a smart city and right now it's full of water. If an emergency arises what will we do?"
    The flood-like situation in the three southern districts of Odisha, which were lashed by incessant rains on Monday, has improved slightly as water began to recede, though the road connectivity remained hit.
    Meanwhile, in neighboring state Bihar, around 514 people have died so far and as many as 1.71 crore people spread across 19 districts have been hit by this year's flood.
    The flood situation is improving with no fresh casualty in the past 24 hours and the number of relief camps reduced to half at 54.

    The water level is receding at several places much to the relief of the affected people, the state's disaster management department said in a release.

RSS demands ban on Chinese products on second day of Vrindavan meet
  • The RSS has termed both China and Pakistan as enemies of India. The saffron group is holding Vrindavan meet at Keshav Dham, in Mathura, Uttar Pradesh.
    Addressing the session, the RSS leaders demanded a complete economic blockade of China, or at least imposing anti-dumping duties on Chinese products to bring Indian products at par with the cheap, but substandard Chinese goods. Also, they demanded that the army be given free hand in Jammu and Kashmir to control dissidents.
    The entire Sangh appeared to be standing behind the central government's decisions on demonetisation and GST. The leaders claimed that, although people did face problems during the initial months of demonetisation, but it controlled the black money. Also, GST is an appreciable step into uniting the country's economy. People may face initial difficulties, but the outcome will be positive.
    RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, told India Today that the issue of murders of RSS men and senior leaders in Kerala was also discussed and these murders were denounced as unfortunate. He said that such incidents create terror in the society and should be prevented. "The government should take strict action in controlling communal violence in Assam and Darjeeling", Bhagwat added.
    Meanwhile, at the end of the first day's meet on Friday, BJP chief Amit Shah, expressed full confidence that the party will beat all records of electoral victory in the 2019 elections. He said that even in the states where elections will be held after some time, the BJP is in a very strong position. Following the meet, Amit Shah retired with Mohan Bhagwat in a closed room, where they had some confidential discussion, which strengthened the speculations that the RSS will be dictating the upcoming cabinet reshuffle.
    When India Today asked VHP president Praveen Togadia, the reason for his silence during the entire meet, he said that he will only speak when the meet is over and the outcome of this three-day meet is clear on September, 3.
    At present, the entire Braj region is abuzz with Hindu activists and even some Muslim BJP and RSS workers can be seen working with their Hindu brethren at Keshav Dham. Although, none of the BJP workers are being allowed inside the meeting area which has been restricted only to the RSS workers.

Lalu slams Nitish after 2 ministers in Bihar govt blame rodents for floods in state
  • The bizarre arguments put forth by two Bihar Ministers in the last couple of days blaming rats for the floods in the state have evoked strong reactions from the Opposition, especially RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav. Taking to Twitter, Lalu has taken potshots at Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, asking him why were rodents being made scapegoat for the failure of the Bihar government.
    "Hazaaron ton sharaab gayab to chuhe jimmedaar aur badh mein hazaaron log mare to chuhe jimmedaar. Maano ye chuhe nahi huye Nitish ke sarkaari bali ke bakre ho gaye", tweeted RJD chief Lalu Yadav.
    Lalu's jibe at Nitish came after Bihar Water Resources Minister Lallan Singh and Minister for Disaster Management Dinesh Chandra Yadav defended the state government's failure in containing the flood situation, blaming the rats for weakening the embankments which led to floods in almost 20 districts of the state in which more than 500 people were killed.
    "Rats are the main reason for the weakening of the embankments in the state, especially in the Kamla Balan embankment", said Lallan Singh.
    Lalu alleged that the state government officials looted crores of funds meant for strengthening of embankments across the state.  
    "Nitish batayen Bihar mein badh do pair wale chuhon ki wajah se aayee ya phir chaar pairon wale chuhon ki wajah se jo tatband nirmaan ka hazaaron karoron kha gaye", said Lalu in another tweet.
    It is notable that a few months ago, the rodents were blamed by police officials when lakhs of litres of liquor bottles went missing from the "maalkhanas" in the police stations. Now they are once again being blamed for the death of more than 500 people in this year's floods in the state.

IAF not in favour of acquiring Russian 5th gen jets, keen on DRDO Make in India project instead
  • It seems that the Indian Air Force (IAF) is not in favour of acquiring the 127 fifth-generation fighter aircraft from Russia due to the "very high cost" involved in the project. It in turn wants to back a DRDO Make in India project - which it is planning to develop a similar plane called Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA).
    It is learnt that IAF's views on the aircraft programme have been conveyed to the defence ministry even as a government panel has expressed its views in favour of the programme.
    "The Air Force has its reservations on the programme mainly on three points. First, the project cost is too high and way beyond what it had expected. The learning curve is not there as the project is already at an advanced stage and the stealth technology of the planes is not as advanced as that of the other similar planes," senior government sources told Mail Today.
    The maintenance cost of the planes is also expected to be very high and similar to that of the Sukhoi-30 planes whose maintenance and upkeep has been quite demanding in their around 20 years in the force, they said.
    The Russians were developing the aircraft known as PAKFA on their side as a counter to the American F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightening, which are considered the latest combat planes with stealth technologies and abilities to strike farther than their older counterparts.
    "The cost of the FGFA progarmme is coming to be huge. While we have already spent close to $300 million (Rs 2,000 crore) on the preliminary design phase, the Russians are demanding $6.7 billion (Rs 44,800 crore) as the development cost of the planes which is coming to be much higher than what we had perceived," the sources revealed.
    "The Russians are asking us to make big investments in the programme. While we are planning to induct only 12 of these planes in their IAF, they are asking India to buy 127 of these aircraft," added the sources.
    Sources said the investment of $6.7 billion (Rs 44,800 crore) would give India only four prototypes of the FGFA aircraft and it will have to pay another $135 million (Rs 900 crore) each for the 127 planes, which would be ready for induction only after 2027-28.
    The cost per aircraft at the time of delivery in 2027-28, due to high inflation in defence deals, would come around $250 million bringing the total project value to around $32 billion (Rs 2 lakh crore), sources also said.
    Air Marshal S Varthman committee has recommended that the IAF should go ahead to coproduce the planes with Russia and the Defence ministry has to decide on it taking into account both the viewpoints. 

Business Affairs

'Why GST on Bengal's mishti doi, if no GST on North India's lassi'
  • West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has asked state finance minister Amit Mitra to write to the Centre for reconsidering its decision of levying GST on sweets. In a conference of business organisations held in Kala Mandir, Kolkata on Thursday, the chief minister delivered a speech over phone from her administrative Nabanna headquarter.
    Mamata mentioned that she is not against implementing GST but the way it is being hurriedly imposed on businessmen, without giving them the time to prepare, should not happen. She assured that she will always fight to safeguard the interest of businessmen. Before GST, there was no tax on sweets in Bengal. Sweetmeat was not taxed under Value Added Tax (VAT).
    GST has also created a confusion among sweet-makers and sellers regarding the percentage of tax. For instance, sellers would have to bear 5% GST on chhana (curd cheese) sweets like roshogolla, sandesh, gulab jamun, kancha golla or rabdi. However, chocolate-coated sweets, which were invented just a few years back and have become extremely popular, will be charged with 28% GST.
    Not only sweets, 18% tax has been imposed on Bengal's famous mishit doi (sweet curd). For salted snacks like radhaballavi, kachori or namkeen, the slab is 12%. Even sweets garnished with cardamom, dry fruits or nuts will be taxed at 12%.
    However, the GST Council claims that even if chocolate or nuts are mixed with sweets, the tax remains 5%. Amid confusion over the amount of tax on different types of sweets, the move has led to an increase in the price of sweets in several shops and chains across the state. In Kolkata, prices of sweets have reportedly gone up at an average rate of Rs 5 per piece.
    Talking to MAIL TODAY, Amitava Dey, owner of the 170-year-old brand Felu Modak, said, "Sweets made with chhana like roshogolla, chomchom or sandesh are easily perishable. We urge the central government to remove GST from these sweets at least. It is a huge loss for our sweets industry."
    He further informed that chief minister Mamata Banerjee has assured to stand by them and fight for their cause. Dey questions, "If there is no GST on North India's lassi, why is GST imposed on Bengal's mishti doi?"
    On August 21, over two lakh sweet sellers across Bengal pulled down shutters protesting the centre's decision to levy GST on sweets under the banner of Paschimbanga Mistanna Byabsayee Samity. On August 25, 26 and 27, they went on a relay hunger strike protesting the move.

Infosys Chairman Nandan Nilekani will not take any salary
  • Newly-appointed Infosys chairman Nandan Nilekani will not draw any salary for his services at the company. This is his second stint with Infosys. Co-founder and former Chief Executive Nilekani had left the organisation in 2009. He returned to Infosys on August 24 to head the IT major after former CEO Vishal Sikka put down his papers. His exit came in the backdrop of reports that the Infosys founders were not satisfied with the way some of the decisions were being taken by the Infy Board.
    Infosys in a filing to the BSE said: "His (Nilekani) last drawn remuneration for the fiscal 2010 in which he ceased to be a director was Rs. 34 lakhs." Nilekani holds 0.93 per cent stake in Infosys. Infosys, however, has also clarified that "UB Pravin Rao will continue to hold the position of Chief Operating Officer for which he will continue to receive the remuneration as approved by the shareholders vide postal ballot concluded on March 31, 2017."
    Rao will not receive any additional compensation for his role as the Interim-Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director.
    Earlier this year, the IT service provider was in news for giving unusual hike to its top executives. UB Pravin Rao who is currently serving as interim-CEO got over 33 per cent hike in annual compensation. Not only that, the Infosys gave severance pay of Rs 12 crore to its former CFO Rajiv Bansal.
    These two decisions of the Board did not go well with the founders. Speaking on the hike to Pravin Rao, NR Murthy said: "The impact of such a decision (compensation hike) is likely to erode the trust and faith of the employees in the management and the board."
    On Rajiv Bansal's severance pay, former Board member Mohandas Pai said that never before in the history of Infosys someone had got this much money for leaving the company. Narayana Murthy had also questioned the large payment to Rajiv Bansal and termed it a 'hush money'.
    All these decisions were taken under former Infosys CEO Vishal Sikka who last month decided to quit saying that he was personally attacked. After Sikka's exit, it was felt that someone was needed who could fix the governance issue at Infosys.
    Then Nandan was brought back. Soon after taking over as Chairman, Nilekani told the investors that he was committed to the highest standard of corporate governance and would bring back the firm on super-stable high growth path.

Reliance to commence JioPhone delivery during Navratri; pre-booking to resume soon
  • Reliance Jio has received over six-million bookings for its first feature JioPhone. The deliveries of the JioPhones will commence in the auspicious period of Navratri in September, a source told Business Today.
    The pre-booking for the phones was started on August 24 and in just three days around 6 million units of Jio feature phone were booked. The booking process, however, was put on hold temporarily so that the company could deliver the booked phones on time. The source said that the customers will continue to be able to register their phones and will be notified on a priority basis when the booking process resumes.
    Earlier, it was reported that the people who had booked the JioPhone will have to wait a bit longer than estimated. RIL chief Mukesh Ambani while speaking at the Reliance Industries AGM event had said that "JioPhone will be physically available to those who have pre-booked, on a first come first serve basis, September onwards."
    Reliance JioPhone was unveiled at the Reliance Industries AGM on 21st July 2017. Though the device was announced at Rs 0, the company will be selling it at Rs 1,500 which will be 100 per cent refundable after 3 years.
    It's the first ever 4G feature phone. The handset comes with a 2.4-inch, and an alphanumeric keypad under it. The phone works on KaiOS. It does not have a camera or the popular applications like Facebook, Youtube, WhatsApp or such which are usually found on smartphones.
    The phone, however, promises a 4G internet connection. The JioPhone also comes with the usual of Jio. The JioTV app can even be streamed on any television set using a proprietary cable bundled with the phone. The phone offer 4G speeds for a pack of Rs 153 or smaller packs of Rs 53 and Rs 23. Reliance Jio claims to put an end to the expensive 2G technology by launching the cheapest 4G feature phone.

India's public debt rises 3.6 per cent to Rs 63.35 lakh crore in June
  • India's total public debt rose to Rs 63.35 lakh crore till June-end, up 3.6 per cent over the previous quarter, according to government data released on Friday. The total public debt (excluding liabilities under the public account) of the government was Rs 61.13 lakh crore as of March-end.
    "This represented a quarter-on-quarter increase of 3.6 per cent in Q1 FY18 as compared to a decrease of 1.15 per cent in the previous quarter (Q4 of FY17)," said the Public Debt Management report released by the finance ministry.
    The report gives an account of the public debt management and cash management operations during the quarter and attempts a rationale for major activities. It also tries to provide information on various aspects of debt management.
    Internal debt constituted 93 per cent of public debt as of June 2017 while marketable securities accounted for 83.2 per cent.
    The report also said that liquidity conditions in the economy remained comfortable and continue to be in surplus mode during the quarter post the demonetisation.
    It further said the cash position of the government during Q1 of FY17 was somewhat stressed and it took recourse to Ways and Means Advances (WMA) from the RBI to tide over this temporary phase.
    This was due to front-loading of expenditure by the ministries and heavy repayment of G-secs falling during the quarter, combined with low cash inflows generally seen during the first half of the year. "Overdraft was also availed briefly during the quarter," it said.
    Cash Management Bills (CMBs) of varying durations amounting to Rs 1.3 lakh crore were issued during the quarter to augment the cash position of the government with CMBs of Rs 40,000 crore redeemed during the quarter itself.
    The governments cash account is maintained with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
    The cash-flow mismatches of the government are largely managed through issuance of treasury bills, access to the WMA facility from the RBI and issuance of CMBs when in deficit and through auctions of its cash balance in market (through RBI) and buybacks of securities from market, when in surplus.
    The limits for WMA for the first quarter of the Financial Year 2017-18 (April 2017-June 2017) was fixed at Rs 60,000 crore.

    Despite heavy rainfall in some parts, water reservoir levels for the country low at 55% of storage capacity
    • India's water storage levels remained lower than year ago levels during the week-ended 31st August 2017. Live storage in 91 important reservoirs in India was 86.629 BCM, which is 55 per cent of total live storage capacity of these reservoirs. This storage level is 84 per cent of the storage of corresponding period of last year and 84 per cent of the average of last ten years.
      The region-wise live water storage of reservoirs shows that as on 31st August 2017, all regions except the northern region had storage levels lower than the corresponding period last year. The cumulative area weighted rainfall upto 30 August 2017 was at three per cent deficit for the country, as per the data released by the India Meteorological Department (IMD). Cumulative rainfall is calculated since 1 June 2017. During 1 June-30 August 2017, 65 per cent of the country received normal rainfall while 21 per cent had received excess rainfall. Of the total area, 14 per cent received deficient rainfall. On a cumulative basis, 24 subdivisions received normal rainfall and six received excess rainfall. Six subdivisions which received deficit rainfall were West Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Chandigarh & Delhi, Punjab, East Madhya Pradesh, Vidarbha and Kerala.
      Weekly rainfall received by the country during 24-30 August 2017 stood at 24 per cent surplus. During the week, seven sub-divisions received normal rainfall while 11 received deficient rainfall.

    General Awareness

    CSIR ranked 9th Public Research Institution of the World

    • On august 31,2017 India’s largest autonomous public research and development organisation Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has been ranked ninth best government organisation in the world. The institute has been ranked ninth amongst a total of 1,207 government institutions, according to the Scimago Institutions ranking World Report 2017.
      The ranking is based on many indicators such research performance, innovation outputs and societal impact measured by their web visibility, so as to reflect scientific, economic and social characteristics of institutions.
      Ranking list: –
      1)Chinese Academy of Sciences.
      2) Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, France.
      3) Helmholtz Gemeinschaft and Max Planck Gesellschaft in Germany.
      4) Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas, Spain.
      5) Russian Academy of Sciences.
      6 Japan Science and Technology Agency
      7) Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Italy
      8) Leibniz Gemeinschaft, Germany.
      9)CSIR, India.
      In overall global ranking, CSIR stands at 75th position amongst 5250 institutions world-wide. It is the only Indian organisation which has found place amongst the Top 100 Global Institutions.
      About CSIR: –
      • It was established by Government of India in 1942.
      • Currently it operates as an autonomous body through the Societies Registration Act, 1860.
      • It is mainly funded by the Ministry of Science and Technology.
      • Director General : Girish Sahni.

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